Thursday, November 6, 2014

Reading Quizzes after Every Reading

A teacher can tell pretty quickly who did and did not complete the assigned reading. However, bringing the issue to the forefront can invite a lot of negativity and conflict into the classroom, and in the end is not very productive. Also, confronting students when they haven't completed their homework  doesn't change the fact that they are not prepared to engage in any kind of meaningful discussion or activity that involves the text.

What is a teacher to do?

It is rare today to find a teacher who lectures for an entire class period. We have been trained in multiple intelligences, different learning styles, differentiation, and introversion vs. extroversion, and try to incorporate the needs of our students into every single lesson. In addition, those of us who work in schools with 85-minute-class periods know that any activity of that length is an exercise in futility. 

Yet, how can a teacher engage her students in an activity if they have never read the material? 

The answer will not surprise you, as it is the headline of this post. 

I give students reading quizzes every time I assign a reading. This practice has changed my classroom by both increasing  the pace and enthusiasm for the course. Students who didn't read before now do; the students who have always read no longer have to sit through a watered-down discussion. The quizzes aren't impossible or terribly hard. I don't expect that students have mastered the material on their own. However, to succeed, students must achieve a basic understanding of the text. 

Before you balk, please remember, the goal isn't to put undue pressure on teenagers by adding high stakes assessment. But like it or not, students are motivated by grades. Perhaps I can inspire them to develop a love of literature, but first they need to read it to fall in love. 

I must give credit to an article by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel that inspired me titled, "Tests Make Kids Smarter. Let's Give Them More."  While I don't agree with everything that he says, it did propel me in this direction.

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely agree with you, Sharna. Without accountability, today's over-programmed kids do not prioritize reading. The past few years, I tried to move away from "I gotcha" reading quizzes, but this year, they are back and my students are keeping up with the reading regularly. Most do well on the 'easy' quizzes and this positivity builds their self-efficacy, and as you point out, leads to richer classes in general.

    To be sure, some kids can 'fake read' - skim or whatever - and still do okay on these quizzes. Ultimately though, it is the students' loss in those cases as their growth as a reader and thinker becomes stunted. But those are rare cases this year as long as I provide realistic reading lengths/expectations, clear foci for readings, and engaging post activities that make the learning as meaningful and fun as it can be on a daily basis.

    Folks don't like to own up to reading quizzes - kudos to you for stepping out.